Apr 5 - Thursday
A day off, the second one in a row, and we had nothing planned, so we did a whole lot of nothing. Even to the point of not even taking any photos. Though Linda is feeling much better, her bout with whatever it was, whether allergies or just a bad cold, had left her without a lot of energy, but then again, neither was I interested in doing much. One can look at life and say, it's a day off, lets do something and not waste the day. Looking back, it wasn't a day we planned to waste, it was just a day where we relaxed and that is what it should be. It feels so good not living in the box of "having" to do something, of looking at a day as a wasted opportunity.
Having risen early, I quickly checked the days headlines on Yahoo!, then tackled the monsterous pile of dirty dishes which covered the coutertop, overflowing into both sinks and over onto the stovetop. It looked overwhelming to me and I could only try to imagine the sigh that Linda would issue forth, should she enter the kitchen and see this as her first task of the day. She had worked hard, cooking last nights send-off meal for Rich and Suzie, while I had done very little. This morning it was my time to reciprocate. While the quantity of dishes, silverware, pots and pans were significant, Linda having used just about every plate we own, the task was not difficult, only lengthy. Linda had made it easy by filling skillets and pans with water, but also by soaking wany of the dirtiest items in those same vessels, making the entire job much easier. It is no wonder I so often think such good thoughts of the beautiful woman who has shared her life with me, these many years. I don't know how many times I filled the little dish drainer with the bounty of my efforts, but I was nearly done when Linda made her appearance. I was happy and she was happy. Maybe it was going to be a wasted do nothing day, but we were both going to be in a good frame of mind.
Breakfast was fixed and eaten at leisure, consisting of an egg omelet and a few grapes. It was a two egg omelet, but it served both of us and filled the RV with the perfume of cooking onions and our bodies with the nutrition we needed. Taking on a task she had been wanting to do for some time, Linda began digging out some items to put on Ebay, while I intently surfed the net, trying to further increase my knowledge of the Linux operating system and the programs which can be used with it. The bottom line is that I am trying to determine if I want to become a convert to Linux, or stay with Windows, and the more I learn, the closer I come to converting. Suffice it to say that is a drama which will be unfolding over the next few months as I place myself in the hands of true believers in both camps. I will not bore you with my motives, reasoning, nor what I am learning, but I will say that knowledge truly is power, and I was thankful to have the opportunity to learn about something new.
Something new was not on the lunch menu, as our old standby, turkey wraps more than filled the bill. I guess it will always amaze me how different our eating habits are today compared to two years ago. How we can subsist on such a small quantity, when for years it was always the opposite. In a small way it was reflected in what was on the plate beside our turkey wrap, a dab of peanut butter, into which we dipped our sliced half of a Granny Smith apple. It wasn't our normal peanut butter and it wasn't 'right'. I can think back to those years when the jar we brought home was always the biggest and the cheapest, after all, peanut butter is just that, peanut butter. Only it is not, and a glance at the label of one of the nationally advertised brands can serve as a wakeup call. Not to be evangelical about it, but why do they make it with added sugar, salt and oils, then throw in a good dose of ingredients that only someone practicing for a spelling bee could pronounce, and only a food chemist could understand the reason for thier inclusion. When it comes to peanut butter, our perferred ingredient list is a good bit shorter, containing only one word, peanuts. Open the jar, stir to mix, then refrigerate after opening. There is no magic pill to better health, only small steps, each of which make a contribution and adds up toward achieving the end result. The converse is also true, and unfortunately that is route most people take. We should know, for that was the path we took for far too many years. As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins only when we are willing to take that first small step.
The remainder of our day was just as boring and wasted as the beginning. Linda was able to list quite a number of items on Ebay, then rest for the remainder of the day, recovering more of her strength. I deleved into something new, the book by Tilden which we had gotten from the park library. We volunteer as interpreters, and here, in my hands, was the first first book which had ever been written regarding the subject. By the time darkness had descended for the day, I had devoured much of the book and didn't stop until the last word had passed beneath my gaze. Never in my wildest imagination could I have imagined a slim volume of only 110 pages, published in 1957 and carrying the quite unassuming title of "Interpreting Our Heritage", could have been a - can't put down, page turner.
Think of all those visits to National and State Parks, or a stop a museum, whether large or small, where someone either brought the place to life or bored you to death. Those folks were interpreters, though they may have gone under other names. Did you leave wanting to know more, or perhaps understanding that what you saw or experienced was just a small part of a much bigger whole or the place where you stood was brought to life by the placard you read? In that case the interpreter had done their job, they had made the whole more than just the sum of the parts. This was not a detailed book on how to accomplish these things, rather it was book on what to accomplish, the underlying six principles of interpretation, as he so succinctly put it.
Reading those first few pages where he outlined what interpretation and the role of the interpreter should be (when it was written no one had ever done this before), I was excited to the upmost, here was someone writing about the way I had approached the task of leading the PDI (Painted Desert Inn) and Puerco (Puerco Pueblo Ruins) Ranger tours, validating my way, so to speak. Yet by the time I had turned the last page I had come to the realization that I had barely discovered the surface, let alone left a few scratch marks on it, when it came to accomplishing my goal of delivering a great interpretive program. Had the applause, handshakes and verbal plaudits I had received yesterday been for the insight and challenge they had felt, or was it simply appreciation for the performance I had given. I knew these two ingedients were not exclusive of each other, but I was now able to see that the result needed to be more like the thrill of bouncing at the top of the tetter totter than the comfortable clapping of someone sitting through an amateurish play. There is much more research and organization to be done, but also there is no doubt in my mind that in the end, visitors to the park will understand what the meaning of the message is at the PDI when they hear, "If these walls could talk", and what the larger meaning of Puerco is when the hear, "How do they know?"
Dinner was chili and cornbread. Now after all my earlier pontificating about nutrition you would think I had enough sense to follow my own advice, but by the time I had finished eating that second piece of cornbread, my stomach was protesting that I doth eat too much. Hopefully I will do better at following the advice of Mr. Tilden. For a day that started with the precept of doing nothing and wasting the day, it had evolved, for me, into a day of tremendous personal growth. Maybe, just maybe, there is no such thing as a wasted day, could it be that it simply depends on how you look at it.
Apr 6 - Friday
Our last day off for the week, but contrary to our former life, we found ourselves thinking about going back to "work" tomorrow in an entirely different way. We were eagerly welcoming the opportunity to once again help the Park's visitors realize what a wonderful and complex place the Petrified Forest really is. It was also a day to once again take up the mantle of the writer, to attempt to put into words the adventures we are enjoying and to try to convey the feelings we find ourselves experiencing.
Having spent the time before Linda arose in contemplation and reading, I busied myself at the computer while she prepared breakfast, which turned out to be a delicious bowl of oatmeal. As we ate we watched our little corner of the world change. Rich and Suzie were going through the last of their preparations prior to pulling out. Knowing what it is like to be hooking up while having someone talk to you about leaving, we stayed inside until they were done.
Be advised that there is more to that photo than meets the eye. Sure we we were sad to see our new friends leave, but beyond that, Linda was eagerly checking out the site they were about to vacate, the one she had been wanting since Dennis and Lu had left last month. She was about to get her room with a side view. The move took only a few minutes and presto, we were set up and back in business.
I'd like to say that the rest of the day proved to be as relaxing as yesterday, but that would be leaving out the plans that Linda had for me. Seems like the Ebay maven had several boxes of goodies which had been buried in the bowels of the coach, which meant that before long I was on my hands and knees trying to retrieve what she desired. Of course they had found their way as close to the center of the bay as was physically possible, so box after box came out until the sought out was brought out. Figuring that a little exercise was good for the body, I then proceeded to return the bay to some semblance of order.
The rest of the day was taken up with working on the daily journal and reading about the Park. One thing that has become one of our great pleasures has been the Park's library with it's vast store of information about the area. I find it interesting that both of us don't just feast on the the stacks of books and piles of monographs, we devour them. In fact we devoured them to the point that we needed to walk up to the library and replenish our supply. That was when we saw the insects that looked like hummingbirds, but obviously weren't hummingbirds, rather they were some kind of moth.
Returning from the library we ran into Rita and learned the answer to our question of what is it. "It" or rather they, because there were many of them darting around the blossoms of the crabapple tree, were White-lined Sphinx Moth's.
Dinner was grilled tuna, tossed salad and sweet potato salad. A meal which proved to be less than scintillating due to the age of the tuna, tuna which we had bought last fall in Winchester Bay. We won't make that mistake again, but then again, maybe the tuna will make some decent tuna salad. Stay tuned. After an evening of TV, we downed our dessert, chocolate chip zucchini cake, and called it a good day. Tomorrow will find Linda closing the visitor Center, while I will be working at the PDI, meaning that it promises to be a good day. May your tomorrow hold the same promise of wonder in your life.
Apr 7 - Saturday
Back to work. What do you mean back to work, it's Saturday. Saturday is a weekend day, you don't work on Saturday. Technically you could say we don't work on any day of the week, but to give a more relevant answer I have to step back in time for a moment. Last fall when we arrived at the Umpqua River Lighthouse we found out we would be "working" on a rotating schedule and that for the first time in our lives, would sometimes be "working" on weekends. This was not a problem, since the days of the week had stopped mattering to us early on in our adventure. The best thing about the weekends were that the crowds were larger and so we were constantly busy which made the day fly by even faster. A time when we began to further understand that life truly is what you make of it.
Thus we were indeed going off to work today, but in a different sense than we had for those many years. Hence we were both up early and eager to get going. One new thing we would have for this week would be our official NPS name badges and did they ever look sharp, and they also gave us more of an official air. Not that we needed it, but just maybe I puffed my chest out a little more. If your going to burn up a lot of energy answering visitors questions, you need a good breakfast, so as I sat trying to write the daily journal, Linda fixed eggs.
Looking at the photo, perhaps eggs was not the most accurate description of what was on the plate. How about eggs under spinach, lots of spinach and an egg. Linda was closing the VC (Visitors Center) and I was manning the PDI (Painted Desert Inn), but first I had another job to do. Seems that each morning a weather report is posted at the VC and this morning I was going to be shown just how that little bit of magic took place. Under Hallie's excellent guidance, I was soon judged competent enough to be put on the schedule to generate and post the report. The method was to get both the current and next two days weather from Weather.com, then put the data into a Power Point template, print it off and post it in the display case. It's not a big thing, but it does bring something home. All those times you visit a National Park and see something which is helpful; there was someone who did that, whether a staff member or a volunteer, it didn't just happen, someone did it to make your visit just a little bit more enjoyable.
I returned from my training session to find it was time to drive over to the PDI and officially start my day. Arriving, I discovered the alarm was already off, but other than that, everything was okay. The cash register is not my forté and once again it proved to be less than co-operative. The problem was in counting out the till, but the second time proved to be the charm and I was officially open and ready for business. The only thing was that it threw me off stride and I forgot to unlock the outside doors to the old ranger room and the sandwich shop, something I corrected later in the morning. I suspect that just about the time we are ready to move on down the road, I'll have everything down to the proverbial "T".
It is amazing just how fast time flies when you are having as much fun as I was, and before I knew it, Hallie had arrived to conduct the guided tour and give me my lunch break. The PDI is a very interesting building, with only a small portion of it open to the public. Lunch is eaten down in the depths of the building, in the old boiler room. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the boiler room and the table and chairs we normally eat at were gone. A little sleuthing, and the mystery was solved, they had simply been moved into another room, one I had never been in before.
As I sat there eating, I wondered what this old building thought about what I was doing. Did it recall those grand days of the late 40's and early 50's when it had truly been "the place' to eat at in these parts. When the aroma of great food filled its rooms, and the joyous sounds of happy customers reverberated throughout its confines. The talk I give about the building is called, If these walls could talk, and I wondered, whether the walls talking to me as I sat there eating? After finishing my turkey wrap, I spent some time wandering through the halls and checking out a number of rooms I had seen on the plans when doing research for the talk, but had never actually explored. One other thing which readily became apparent was the degree to which the building has been affected by the expansive clay soil it was built on. Needless to say the number of cracks in the walls tell the story.
The afternoon flew by, even though we didn't have a large number of visitors, mainly because the visitors we had were amenable to learning more about the PDI and I was certainly amenable to helping them in discovering the tidbits of info which bring the building alive. The only problem I ran into was a somewhat disgusted couple who arrived just before closing time. Seems a ranger, who shall remain nameless, told them about several sites in the park where they could see petroglyph's. Not the normal tourist places, but rather the, you've got to hike a good ways and there is no trail, places to see petroglyph's. They fancied themselves as maybe a little better at what they were trying to do than what their abilities actually enabled them to do and the result had been much wandering around, but no sightings of petroglyph's. Unfortunately for me, it was right a closing time when they needed to transfer their frustration to someone else and I was elected, though I would have gladly declined to serve, if I could have. By the time we were finished talking, they were planning on coming back tomorrow and seeing the petroglyph's down below the PDI. I had not only shown them where it was at, but had also written out instructions on how to get there. Maybe tomorrow will prove to be a better day for them, or at least I hope that it does. All this had put me way behind schedule and when they left it was past 5:30 and there was a line at the cash register. We may close at 5, but if the doors are unlocked, people don't pay any attention to the signs, they just walk right in. After ringing up their sales, my first order of business was to lock the doors, then go through all the little tasks of closing. My problem with the cash register that I encountered this morning carried over and I had to count the drawer twice to get it right.
My final task was to turn in the paperwork on a wilderness permit that I had issued and was somewhat surprised to see Linda still at the VC. Turned out that there must have been some sort of cash register flu going around, because she who never has any problem with these matters was also a little frustrated that her count wouldn't balance out. I did exactly the right thing, stayed out of her way and in short order she found what was missing, it was paperwork, not cash, and everything balanced out. Back at the coach we, or I should say, Linda fixed dinner, left over Big Easy Shrimp, which was indeed, easy to fix, and then we settled in to watch another Tony Hillerman DVD, Thief of Time. It was while laying on the couch that Linda noticed we had a visitor. Seems our mouse had not sought other pastures, as Linda observed it scurrying back and forth between the drivers seat and the galley slide. Then it really got curious, scuttling up along side the couch, which startled Linda, but resulted in good laugh for both of us. Linda decided she was going to have to check with maintenance tomorrow morning and see if they had any extra mouse traps, since ours wasn't working.
We finished the day with a thick slice of chocolate chip zucchini cake and lay in bed imagining we were hearing all kinds of noises, most of which we took to be the mouse we had seen, now busily engaged in chewing at various parts of our coach. The human mind, what a fantastic thing it is. In the spirit of Easter, may we all use it in the ways it was intended and try to bring a bit of joy to all whom we touch.
Apr 8 - Sunday
Easter Sunday morning and it was role reversal day for Linda and I, so Linda was going to be headed off to the PDI while I would be closing the VC. It was also a different way of spending Easter, since for most of our lives we would have been attending church today. Instead we would be spending the day having an enjoyable time, or maybe I should saying, helping others have a more enjoyable time than if the hadn't met us sometime during the course of the day. Then again, maybe that is what the true meaning of the day is all about. Showing concern, care, compassion and love for others. If that is the case then we succeeded in having a wonderful Easter.
For once Linda had to leave before I did, so she was up early and starting to fix breakfast when it occurred to her to check the mouse trap. We had gotten so used to there never being anything in it that it was something which we only did when we remembered, rather than as a matter of routine. After her mouse episode of last night, and her buttering up the trap with fresh peanuts and an extra dab or two of peanut butter, she was curious to see what might have happened. The trap wasn't placed where it was easy to see, so she pulled out the file drawer and looked, unable to see anything in the dim light, so grabbing the heavy duty flashlight, guess she thought if there was a mouse back there and it attacked her she could use it as a club, she shined it on the trap.
It's at times like this when those old Appalachian hill girl genes really come out, notice the bare feet, and she goes into attack mode. It was hard to see back behind the drawer and she leaned closer and closer until suddenly the words, "there's a mouse in the trap", was resounding through the coach. Those words had not been a simple statement, rather they had burst forth almost as a shout of triumph.
Because of the clearance between the drawer and the frame, my arm will not fit, which meant that she had been the one to place the trap back there. I could foresee a potential problem of how to extricate the trap with the mouse in it, when she let out another of those hollers that no doubt carried across the hollows when she was growing up back in the hill country. "There's two of them, I can't believe it, I caught two of then." Indeed there were two mice in the trap, but I had also picked up on something else she had said and was already plotting how to best exploit that unintended utterance. The word "I", as in "I caught two of them". Not one to let her thrill of victory go to waste, I immediately came back with, "you did catch two of them didn't you", to which she once again unthinkingly replied, "yes I did." Now she was caught in a trap just as secure as those two mice. "Well, in that case how are are 'you' going to get them out of there", were the next words she heard. Smart girl, she was paying attention, because she was quiet for a few seconds, then said, "you can't reach in there can you?"
After she had ever so gingerly pulled the trap out through the narrow opening, I manged to let the last of the air our her bubble by bringing up the subject of mouse disposal. Always before I had taken the trap some distance from the coach and left it laying upside down on the ground so the mouse could escape. We sure didn't want to let them loose near the coach, and since she would be working at the PDI, that was perfect place to set them free because it was two miles from the coach and the odds of us never seeing those little critters again were very much in our favor. While this was most definitely not what she had in mind when she had originally set the trap, she realized it was the best solution, so after taking the the requisite photo, she was off to the PDI, while I worked on the daily journal. Her last words as she exited the coach were, "they sure have big eyes." Guess we would to if we were in their place.
One of the great things about living this life is never knowing exactly what the day will bring, and of course if you peer through this little window into our life you never know what you will be reading. Guess that's my way of saying that just maybe I missed writing it this past month and a half and am glad to be back myself. Enough contemplation, let's get back to the real world. Linda had a great time over at the PDI, even experiencing the joy of having several people come back from a hike in the Painted Desert Wilderness Area and tell her they were able to find some petroglyph's or in one case, Onyx Bridge, thanks to her help.
I also had a great time up at the VC, with many visitors being quite interested in knowing more than the usual 'what is there to see'. It was also great working with Hallie, who, after having been at the Park for 10 years was a treasure trove of interesting facts about the Park. Linda also stopped by the VC after she got off from the PDI and helped me close, returning my favor from last night. It is at times like this that the wonder of what we are doing really seems to shine forth. It was back in the late 60's we started out in this thing we call marriage and family, newlyweds, eager to make life something special. Now, some 40 years later we have had the opportunity to live those first, exciting years, when everything was new, all over again. Setting out on our own, living someplace new, "working" at new jobs, experiencing the joy and happiness of discovering new things together once again. I know this life isn't for everyone, but for us it has been an amazing, wonderful time. Maybe I am thinking about this today because of the special gift that was given on the first Easter, or perhaps it's because it is gift I can give to our readers, but regardless of the circumstances of your life, may it be filled with the same sense of joy and renewal which ours is.